01 Dec 2015
New HBS entrepreneurship director offers lessons from previous liftoffsby Dan MorrellTopics:
Before joining HBS’s Arthur Rock Center for Entrepreneurship as its new director in July, Jodi Gernon (MBA 1991) weighed two other potential career options—joining a startup or launching one of her own. “I thought, ‘Here’s an opportunity to launch not just one startup but a lot of them,’” says Gernon. After earlier posts in health care tech and brand marketing, Gernon worked with a number of successful startups—including MotherNature.com, which had a $50 million IPO. More recently, she discovered a passion for coaching entrepreneurs while mentoring students at the i-lab and advising early-stage companies in Boston and Toronto. “Being a sounding board, helping founders see the path ahead, helping them focus—I just get energized by it,” she says.
THE FIVE MISTAKES YOUNG STARTUPS MAKE
Common themes from Gernon’s coaching sessions
Ignoring their customers: “Too often, they’ll design something for what they think their customers’ needs are, and they haven’t developed plans to test these assumptions.”
Aiming for perfection: “You want to go to market with a minimally viable product and get feedback from your customers as quickly as possible.”
Viewing failure as an existential crisis: “It’s the teams that look at failure as a learning opportunity and not as an endgame that succeed.”
Not knowing when to pivot: “If it’s not working, it’s not working.”
Refusing to ask for help: “You don’t need to believe you have to do it all.”
NYC Startup Studio
The Rock Center’s New York office opened on December 1, 2015, in Midtown Manhattan, with plans to move to a permanent space in the heart of Silicon Alley in the spring. The 40-desk entrepreneurship community is open to all HBS alumni. Read more about the office and the application process at alumni.hbs.edu/rocknyc.
Class of MBA 1991, Section A